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Building for the future

LUVERNE -- It's been almost a year since Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity had a groundbreaking ceremony for its latest project --a single family dwelling on East Bishop Avenue in Luverne.

Then nothing happened. Despite having an eager family -- Sheryl Staeffler and her children -- waiting to take occupancy, no progress was made on the build.

"By the time the family was chosen, then the contractors were totally booked up for the summer," explained Pam Dobson, executive director of the regional chapter of H4H, a Christian-based ministry dedicated to reducing poverty housing and providing adequate and affordable housing for working members of the community. "We need a general contractor to oversee the whole thing."

Dobson tried to get the basement dug last fall, but again was stymied by a lack of expert manpower. Spring's late arrival caused further delays.

Finally, however, Dobson and her volunteer force are ready to move forward.

"We have Jeff Bass from Hills as our volunteer general contractor," said Dobson on Thursday. "... Talking with Jeff yesterday, we do have someone digging the basement next week, so we're going to get started."

As soon as the basement is dug, the cement contractor is ready to pour the foundation. Then Southwest HRH is hoping for an influx of skilled volunteers.

"We're working on getting the Care-A-Vanners here," explained Dobson. "They are a group from H4H, older retired people who travel in big Winnebago campers all over the United States.

"... They are a very experienced group and have their own tools," Dobson continued. "Some of them are even retired contractors. If there are enough to come, they can frame a house within a week or two. They are going to be using the new campsite in Hardwick for their lodging needs and will be here for about two weeks. But that's all tentative. They're fitting us in when they can."

That isn't to say that H4H isn't in need of volunteers for this build and the long-term. A volunteer meeting is planned for Tuesday evening in Luverne.

"At that meeting, they'll explain the Habitat vision and mission, and they'll also have the chance to register as volunteers, and the registration process will be explained," Dobson said.

But volunteers don't necessarily have to wield a hammer and saw. There are many opportunities that don't require such hands-on labor. Some of the other H4H committees that could use help are public relations, church relations, fundraising, family support and family selection.

"Family support is one I'm really trying to build and get to be strong," said Dobson. "It is vital to our homeowners as far as helping them through the process and assisting them later on to be able to remain in the home."

Southwest Minnesota H4H encompasses Nobles, Pipestone and Rock counties, and representatives from each of the counties are needed to help with various aspects of the organization.

"We have just been blessed lately from the Nobles County area, people calling up and saying they want to be involved, so we have board members from Nobles County, but still need board members from both Rock and Pipestone," Dobson detailed. "But we can use committee members from all of the counties."

Fundraising is, of course, key to the entire operation, and H4H relies on donations from individuals, churches and other groups for most of its operating costs.

"I am paid for a part-time position," Dobson explained. "but there are so many requirements and paperwork that needs to be completed that it becomes overwhelming sometimes. If no one is interested in being on one of the committees, we also need people who will work with the website and with social media. We especially need somebody to handle social media and work it to our advantage."

Dobson is eager to get the Luverne build rolling again, but probably not as eager as the home's future residents.

"Sheryl has been very, very patient," related Dobson. ".. But she did contact me last week and ask what's happening with the house. This is very frustrating for the homeowner, and we've got people who are really eager to get in there. We've got people biting at the bit, and we want to get going."

The volunteer meeting for the Southwestern Minnesota Chapter of Habitat for Humanity will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Luverne Pizza Ranch. Pizza will be served. For more information, contact Pam Dobson, (507) 215-2091; email;

or go to the website,

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

(507) 376-7327